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Refuse to Tolerate Scapegoating of Any Group

The following is an article I wrote for my student newspaper and a women's newsletter. It came out of the thinking of a topic group on Muslims and Allies at the Allies to Jews Workshop in September 1995 in England. I recently went to a workshop. It's purpose was for Gentiles to think about Jewish liberation. We talked about how there are many oppressions in the world, such as classism, sexism, racism, and ageism. All these oppressions divide us and push us into certain roles that limit us. They keep the current, damaging, capitalist societies in place. In certain oppressions, a particular group of people is used as a scapegoat for the problems occurring within society. This is characteristic of the oppression of Jews.

Historically, as a people without a homeland, Jews were outwardly welcomed into a country but then pushed into jobs such as tax collectors or money lenders, so that in times of economic crisis the working class could be manipulated to blame the Jews rather than those who controlled the wealth. A crucial step in ending the oppression of Jews has been for this people to attain a homeland (whether all Jews live there or not).

Israel, or any other homeland, can be shared with others for whom it is equally a homeland. Once we recognise the right of the State of Israel to exist, we can then question the oppressive policies of the current Israeli government. We can notice that they are manipulated by Western capitalist interests, which feed off of Jews' fears accumulated through centuries of persecution and hence are not in the long-range interests of Israelis or Diaspora Jews. The long-range interests of any groups of people that have been pitted against each other in a fight for scarce resources lie in working together to achieve a fair distribution of wealth. To do this, such groups will have to become allies and fight for each other, and eliminate the divisions which distract them from tackling the real issues. It is of utmost importance that we interrupt the mechanism of scapegoating. This device is increasingly being used against Muslims.

One of the meanings of "Islam" is peace. Islam can be seen as a way of life, not just a personal religion. Christian fundamentalism is tied to right-wing ideology, but Muslim fundamentalism is in opposition to capitalism. Islam is thus viewed as a threat, particularly since it is based on ideas of social justice for all people.

British Christian culture is saturated with anti-Islamic ideas. For example, many hymns are about the glory of the Crusades. Recent events have been used to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment. For example, there were many peaceful protests about Salman Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses, but these were ignored until actions were taken which could be used to show Muslims in a bad light.

Muslims are generally ignored in this country until the media portrays them negatively and in a racist way. We are fed images of rich, unscrupulous Arabs. The words "Muslim" and "extremist" are pushed on us as if they were intertwined. "Muslim extremists" are blamed for terrorist actions which are later correctly ascribed to some unrelated group, and then the initial blame is not apologised for.

We are refusing to support the Bosnian Muslims but are selling arms to fuel conflicts against predominantly Muslim countries. We have supported unscrupulous leaders of supposedly Islamic countries if it suited our purposes at the time.

Parents are fed scare stories. An article titled "Moslem All Out War in Schools" was actually about a dispute in which two sisters wished to wear head scarves. Another article titled "Muslims Wanting To Take Over" was about the reasonable request for one assembly a week to be Muslim. Whilst other religions are allowed to open schools, the government has not allowed the Muslim community to do the same.

Some ways of creating division are designed to confuse us. They appear to come from left-wing or feminist stances. For example, the assertion that women are "more oppressed" under Islam is a sneaky way of trying to convince white Western women that we've got it good. In fact, under Islam, women have as much right as men to education, to involvement in politics, and to enter the workplace. Forcing or coercing a woman into marriage is not allowed, and women are allowed to divorce. Housework and childcare are a shared responsibility. Female circumcision is not an Islamic practise. I am not saying that there aren't Muslims (or Jews) who have done things that I am opposed to. I see that in all communities. However, there is often a great difference between how a religion instructs people to behave and how they actually behave. Also, of course, the activities of a minority do not define the will of the majority.

Specific groups are singled out, scapegoated, attacked, and lied about with the purpose of spreading misunderstanding and fear. We need to educate ourselves about the groups we are being pitted against. We must refuse to tolerate any scapegoating, whether it is of Jews, Muslims, Gay people, travellers, or single parents. Such scapegoating opens the ground up to all other intolerance and oppression.

Gail Bradbrook
Brunswick Manchester, England

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00